Day 24 – Swaziland

7 Oct

More delays with road closures but then a swift border crossing into Swaziland with immediately distinctive scenery.

From the desert in Namibia, through the bushland of Botswana, and now into mountainous and pine-forested terrain of the kingdom.

An early arrival at the campsite inside the Mlilwane wildlife reserve means I have the chance to rent a mountain bike and ride around the wildlife (fortunately nothing too vicious except for the crocodiles) and up a mountain in 30 degree heat….

Lots more amusing/interesting signs today… Apparently in one of the local languages the word for crocodile is flatdog. Lol.

Day 23 – En route to Swaziland

7 Oct

Just when you get ahead of schedule you get a 2 hour road closure to bring you back to reality.
Not much of interest today. Saw more interesting signs than sights. Including the ones that say “High crime risk – Do not stop your vehicle”

Hmmm. And being back in Zuid Africa I thought would be lower risk. I suppose it’s more about population density than poverty. There’s certainly more population. Makes it feel a bit too normal, but then you get place names like the Limpopo river, which evoke some sense of adventure.

Took a meandering route to my lakeside campsite, seeking better views. Though it’s more hilly than Botswana it’s still not very attractive. No matter, all I’m doing is heading to Swaziland, where I will be tomorrow, subject to road closures and other acts of the gods…

Day 22 – Back in SA

3 Oct

Overlanding in Africa involves a lot of parking under trees, a baobab in this case.

There’s a tree in Botswana that the locals call the rain tree. If you stand under it, you might think it’s starting to rain.

It isn’t.

There is a certain type of insect that lives in the rain tree, feasting on the leaves and then, um, let’s say excreting.

The locals do not stand under the rain tree…

Strong progress today on surprisingly good roads, some of them seemingly brand new smooth tarmac. With Botswana’s flat landscape offering little reason to stop, I find myself already back in SA and almost a day ahead of schedule.

Overlanding frequently leads to the stick or twist game. When you haven’t prebooked somewhere desirable because you’re just in transit to the next point of interest, then you probably have some possible overnight accommodation options planned. If you pass them all much earlier than expected, you can decide to stick, knowing that there is a place to stay but that you will be killing time in an unexciting place, or you twist. 

Keep on moving, get ahead of the plan, gain some flexibility for the next day, but at the risk of not finding any campsite or motel with space available before it gets dark, and all of them unknown and unresearched.

Sometimes, twisting fails and you end up sleeping on a pile of gravel at the side of the road still wearing your motorcycle helmet like a mini tent just for your head (Black Sea, Turkey, 2009).

Sometimes, like today, you win, and after a remarkably brief passage through the border back into SA, then past a 2 mile queue of trucks waiting for their turn to head north into Botswana, you happen upon what you think will be a campsite but turns out to be a very cosy little chalet with a fridge, air-con, and satellite TV, for little more than £20.

After the overlanders favourite dinner of pasta slop, cooked on the gas burner on the tailgate of The Beast, all I have to do now is study the map and replan tomorrow’s drive looking for a more scenic route to the campsite in Swaziland that is booked for the day after.

Day 21 – Moremi Game Reserve

2 Oct


At 6am my new Botswanian (Botswanese?) friend Sadie and I climbed into our safari car, worryingly a Land Rover instead of the more reliable Landcruiser, and began the 3 hour drive to Moremi on a very badly corrugated and rutted sand road.

At first Moremi doesn’t compare well to Etosha. There’s the usual scattering of Eland, Springbok, and Impala, a handful of Zebra and Giraffe, and a few Elephants with a calf so young it can barely walk.


There certainly isn’t the density of wildlife that you see so easily in Etosha. On the other hand, it’s much more wild. The roads in Etosha offer easy driving and easy viewing, but there are always several other vehicles in sight. At Moremi, for most of the day you feel like you could be the only humans there, and unlike the well-made gravel roads of Etosha, the rough trails in Moremi look like they’ve had just a handful of vehicles along. Instead of driving down the road looking at the African wilderness you’re actually in it. Really in it, surrounded by it on all sides, part of it, not just next to it looking in.

And then two male Lions under a tree, sleeping off the Hippo they’ve recently eaten according to the guide’s assessment of the bones we found elsewhere.


Just a short distance away, 7 lionesses and 5 cubs all resting under another tree.



Later, a picnic lunch under a big baobab tree.

Also saw a load of Hippos slurping through the mud, and a troop of Baboons picking ticks off each other. And eating them.

During the drive back, I was really glad someone else was driving and it wasn’t my vehicle being pounded on those roads. More importantly, I doubt I would have found those Lions or the superb picnic spot. Our guide did a great job, and Sadie was so happy and bubbly that even the tiring parts of the day were great fun.

Now on towards Swaziland, which is a few days driving away from here. Thanks Botswana, you pulled it off nicely at the end!




Day 20 – Okavango Delta

1 Oct




Took a very bumpy flight over the delta in a little Cessna. The delta is unusually dry like everywhere else in this region, but still an impressive sight.

Huge herds of elephants and buffalo, many scattered smaller groups of giraffe and zebra.

With the bumpiness of the ride it was very difficult to take photos, especially on zoom. Resorted to no zoom and even then it was still hard.

Spent most of the return flight feeling rather queasy…

Failed to capture any photos that convey the sheer scale of the place or the impressive density of wildlife.

The people I booked the Moremi game reserve campsite have indeed shafted me, so instead of driving in myself I had to arrange a guided game drive. Which then got cancelled, so I had to run around again trying to find another option.

In theory, I’ve finally got one set up for tomorrow. If it does happen, it will be interesting to see what it’s like letting someone else do the driving.